Mahan Khomamipour : How to access forbidden areas

Born in 1992 in Tehran, Iran, Mahan Khomamipour has been an independent filmmaker, cinematographer and performer for 10 years. From 2011 to 2018, he made several documentaries and art/music videos about the Iranian youth and their underground lifestyle inside of the repressive regime.

By Margaux BALTUS and Lucie REMER

  • “When we are forbidden from entering, I just open the door and go through it.”
  • “Forbidden areas are created out of chaos. Use that to your advantage.”
  • “You need to know about the exceptions that exist because there will always be one. Your job is to find it.”

Mahan Khomamipour encourages young journalists to go into forbidden areas, even if there are risks.

“Inside you can find so much news, so forget that you can not get into it » , Khomamipour said. « But every forbidden place has a door or a gate, and guardians or lockers. So, how do we pass through?”

Journalists should not forget that by going into those areas, there will be consequences.

“You are taking risks when you go  inside » , he warned. « You should solve any obstacles that exist before going in because it will not get easier inside.”

Reporters need to be brave, but not impulsive.

“Think through everything, especially on the worst possibilities » , Khomamipour said. « The main target at-risk in these places is you, and that’s a dangerous game.”


To make their way to “forbidden areas” , journalists must also be creative.

“I passed through so many gates that I thought I could never go to, » Khomamipour said. « For example, when I was in Iran during the Covid pandemic, we wanted to go outside to film, I realized that if I had an Uber, I could go wherever I wanted outside. You can also use fake press badges using Photoshop.”

The key is maintaining casual conversation with authorities, Khomamipour said.

“Nobody has enough patience to check everything. People who work in the checkpoint are ordinary people. With enough talking and convincing, you can enter these forbidden places.”

Khomamipour also thinks that ‘fixers,’ or local journalists on-the-ground, should not be used if you are not familiar with the country.

“You need to find a good friend because they will not do it for the money, » he said. « This person will not risk his life for your job.” Though, even if there are risks, Khomamipour is convinced that journalists need to go straight to the center of the affected area.

“There is always a backdoor, but I prefer to go through the frontdoor, » he said. « It allows you to have more details and to go more in depth.”


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